HILTON HEAD, Sc. (WSAV) – More than a third of the world’s Loggerhead sea turtle population nests on the Southeast coast. We’re about one month into nesting season and Hilton Head Island already counted its 100th nest Tuesday morning.
With 250 nests being the average and 400 a record high in the total five month period on the island, we are well on our way to breaking that record this year.
“A hundred so far this season and it’s only been going on for a month,” said Rex Garniewizz, President of the Coastal Discovery Museum, “We really have a five month season between the first nest being laid and the last hatching out.. so there’s potential for hundreds more nests to be late on Hilton Head Island.”
Volunteers with the Turtle Protection Project patrol the Hilton Head coast every morning looking for nests. They “drive every day up and down the beach 14 miles each way and mark nests so that they don’t get damaged or laid in places where they need to be relocated,” said Garniewizz.
If you’ve been to Coligny Beach, you may have seen the nests. They’re marked with PBC pipe and a sign so beach goers know little lives are in process under the sand.
“Hilton Head Island is the largest barrier island in the southern United States and so it has a lot of ocean facing beach and that beach is great for sea turtle nesting,” Garniewizz said, “But it’s also been developed so there are all these issues that arise when you bring people in to contact with sea turtles.”
For example, leaving beach chairs or holes in the sand can cause what they call “false crawls.”
“If they hit something like a chair or a sand castle, they’ll just turn around and go back into the ocean and not lay their eggs and so if they do that several times in a row, they’ll give up and they’ll just lay their eggs in the ocean and there will be 120 baby sea turtles lost,” he said.
So far they’ve counted 59 false crawls here on the island, but that’s not even the biggest challenge for these turtles. It’s all the oceanfront houses with lights on at night.
If you want to help these little guys, it’s important to turn your lights off and close your blinds at night, so when the baby turtles hatch, they follow the moon to the ocean instead of your house.
In addition, you can adopt a Loggerhead sea turtle nest by visiting the Coastal Discovery Museum’s adoption page.
If you’d like to follow the Turtle Protection Project’s count on Hilton Head, you can keep up with the numbers every day here.